July 19, 2008
‘Stop Arguing Over Cash and Let Children Learn’
By Gerry Holt; Katie Bodinger
TEACHERS and parents have called for politicians to resolve a funding crisis surrounding a new curriculum for young children.
Today, a report by the National Assembly's finance committee said there had been a "systemic failure" in the transfer of funding information between councils and the Assembly Government.
The report also highlights concerns about staffing costs and recruitment.
The pioneering Foundation Phase, for four to seven-year-olds, is due to be rolled out in September and aims to encourage learning through play. For every eight pupils there should be one teacher.
Head teacher of Kitchener Primary Jane Evans, whose school was one of the first pilot centres in 2004, said she hoped that the issue of funding would be resolved soon.
"We shouldn't have to be grappling with this. Our job is to deliver this curriculum. The issue of funding is taking up a lot of time and it needs to be sorted fairly quickly. We need to know what money we are going to have. We need to get it right. We plan quite far ahead and this is stressful for teachers."
Roy Jefferies, head of St Mary's Catholic Primary, said: "Head teachers in Cardiff have said what the position is from day one. This should have been sorted out a long time ago. We will not have the money to employ the teaching assistants needed in the reception class next academic year. I am saddened and appalled."
Parent Leah Morris, whose son Luke, eight, went through the foundation phase in its first pilot year at Kitchener, said the children needed to be put first.
"I think it's a fantastic scheme," said the 37-year-old mum of five, from Leck with. "I just think they need to stop all the wrangling about money and put it there so teachers can do their jobs."
David Evans, secretary of the NUT Cymru also called on the politicians to sort out the problems.
He said: "Somebody needs to take control and direct where this initiative is going or there's going to be a potential disaster in some schools."
Last month, it was decided that the roll-out of the foundation phase would be staggered, meaning it would only be compulsory for pupils in nursery classes in the next academic year.
The finance committee, which released its findings today, is made up of politicians including Cardiff Central's Liberal Democrat AM Jenny Randerson and Labour AM Huw Lewis.
An Assembly Government spokesman said: "It is vital that the Assembly Government, local authorities, schools, teaching unions and all key stakeholders work together in partnership because we all want all young people in Wales to reap the benefits of the foundation phase.
"Great progress has been made since the finance committee took evidence and next week's discussion at the group will focus on what has to bed one to ensure the further implementation of foundation phase over the next four years is successful."
David Ped well, secretary of the Cardiff Primary head teachers' conference, said: "The bottom line is making sure the foundation phase can be rolled out for reception classes next year and for subsequent years," he said.
"Whatever has gone on, its pointless trying to point the blame." [email protected]
The new proposal to today's damning report
THE Foundation Phase is a new approach to learning for children aged three to seven based on play, active involvement and practical activities.
2003 - Education Minister Jane Davidson proposed the new curriculum in 2003.
September 2004 - The pilot of the Foundation Phase begins in 42 schools, nurseries or playgroups.
December 2006 - Education Minister Jane Davidson announces the Foundation Phase, will be rolled out to all schools by 2011.
September 2007 - A further 42 schools and education centres sign up to the pilot.
February 2008 - Education chiefs in Cardiff voice their fears that there will not be enough cash to fund the learning revolution.
April 2008 - One in 10 schools in Wales threatens to boycott the roll-out of the Foundation Phase because of a funding crisis. Head teachers in the Vale of Glamorgan make a stand alongside colleagues in Cardiff and vote unanimously to reject the funding package being offered by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG).
June 2008 - A task group including Assembly officials, Education Minister Jane Hutt, union representatives and education directors from local education authorities decides the roll out of the Foundation Phase will be staggered.
Today - The finance committee's report is released.
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